Doorstep Crime and Bogus Callers
What is doorstep crime?
From bogus callers to rogue traders, doorstep criminals are cunning, creative, and often very convincing.
Anyone can be fooled as these people are professional con artists. However, the over 60s are often specifically targeted.
What types of doorstep criminals are there?
There are two main types:
Bogus callers try to get into your home or obtain personal details by pretending to be someone they’re not, including council staff, charity collectors, meter readers and police officers. In reality, they are criminals trying to steal money and valuables.
Rogue traders usually cold-call, claiming to be workers offering to sell services, make repairs or carry out work on your house, garden or driveway. In reality they charge inflated prices for shoddy or unnecessary work.
We DO NOT recommend dealing with cold-callers for property maintenance and home repairs.
How can I spot a Rogue Trader?
- They may tell you the work is urgent and needs to be carried out immediately.
- They will normally ask for payment there and then and may offer to come to the bank with you if you don’t have the cash at hand.
How can I protect myself from doorstep crime?
- Be on guard if someone turns up unexpectedly.
- Keep front and back doors locked.
- Use the door vieweror nearby window when answering the door.
- Fit a door chain or bar – use it and keep it on when talking to callers at the door.
- If you’re not sure, don’t answer the door.
- Don’t feel embarrassed - genuine callers expect you to be careful.
- Only let callers in if they have an appointment and you have confirmed they are genuine.
- Always ask for identification badges of anyone you answer the door to, but don’t rely on them. Identity cards can be faked – phone the company to verify their identity.
- Some companies offer a password system. Ask your utility providers if this can be used and if you have a password with a company make sure the caller uses it.
- Never let people try to persuade you to let them into your home even if they are asking for help – they may not be genuine. If someone is persistent, ask them to call at another time and arrange for a friend or family member to be with you.
- Never agree to pay for goods or give money to strangers who arrive at your door.
- Don’t keep large amounts of money in your home.
- Remember, it’s your home. There’s no reason why anyone should ever enter your home against your wishes.
- If you’re not sure, don’t answer the door.
For more information about how to secure your home and the property within it, see our advice on how to Keep Your Home Safe
British Sign Language
What else can I do to stop being defrauded by a Rogue Trader?
Trading Standards advice is:
- Don’t feel pressurised into agreeing to immediate work or buying a product or service.
- Don’t agree to buy from the first person who calls.
- Don’t pay cash up front or offer to go and get money.
- Shop around if you decide you need work done.
- Ask what your cancellation rights are.
- Report them.
What action should I take if someone visits me and I think they’re a doorstep criminal?
- Keep the caller out of your house, ask them to leave and call the police immediately by dialling 101.
- You might also want to try to alert a family member or attract a neighbour’s attention but you should always contact the police first by dialling 101. The police would much rather attend a false alarm than have someone fall victim to a doorstep criminal.
- If the person refuses to leave your door, or you feel threatened or scared - Call 999 and ask for the police.
- Note down their description and the description of any vehicle they’re using, including make, model, colour and registration number.
How can I protect my family, friend and neighbours?
Discuss the advice on this page with family, friends or neighbours who are older or vulnerable. There are also other things you can do to help protect them against bogus callers – everyone has a part to play to keep the community safe.
- Keep an eye out for strange vans in your neighbour's driveway.
- Make sure your relativesare not regularly taking large amounts of cash out of the bank.
- Make arrangements to ensure your relative’s house looks well maintained and, for example, that it is not immediately obvious that an older person lives there alone.
- Doorstep criminals will often target the same victim more than once, so be particularly alert if someone has previously been a victim.
- Police Scotland has a ‘Nominated Neighbour Scheme’ which can assist those who prefer not to answer the door to those they don’t know. Read our Nominated Neighbour leaflet.
- Look out for your community and report any suspicious activity immediately to Police Scotland on 101 or your local authority Trading Standards.
- For more information on doorstep crime or assistance regarding home security contact your local Community Policing Team on 101.
Bogus Phone Calls
Bogus callers can also make contact with you by phone. Get more information about this in our advice about Identity Fraud and Scams.
How do you safeguard yourself when you are employing tradespeople?
Homes need maintained and not all of us have either the expertise, ability or time to do the work ourselves. There are a great many tradespeople that can assist with these tasks but how do you know who to use and how to ensure the work is completed to a good standard at a fair price? Do you know your consumer rights?
One Glasgow man tells his nightmare story below. Details have been changed to protect his identity.
Mr Ramsay, a retiree who suffers from a physical disability engaged the services of a plumber in 2016 to renew the heating and plumbing in his 2 bedroom house. Mr Ramsay bought most of the new materials required but the plumber was to provide the piping. He paid £4000 for the work to be completed. Straight after the work was completed, Mr Ramsay started to experience problems with the work. He found out that the plumber had commissioned his apprentice to do the job and that unsuitable sizes of piping were used, as well as some of the electrical work having been left in a dangerous condition. Mr Ramsay has had to pay £2500 extra to rectify the situation and has had to spend many hours pursuing the matter. This has had a knock on effect for his health in terms of stress and upset.
Mr Ramsay said, “No matter how trustworthy a tradesperson appears, make sure that you use someone with a good reputation and who will provide you with written quotes, cancellation rights and guarantees”.
Emily Liddle, Campaigns Officer of Citizens Advice Scotland said, “Unfortunately, we see a large number of cases similar to Mr Ramsay’s through the Citizens Advice Bureaux network. Hiring an untrustworthy trader can leave you with considerable disruption to your home as well as severe financial loss.
There are a number of things consumers can do to protect themselves before employing tradespeople. Find out as much as you can about the tradesperson before you agree to any work taking place. Use the Government endorsed Trustmark quality mark that signposts to reputable local traders. Find a trader who is a member of a trade association, trade associations have codes of practice and schemes that can help problem resolve problems. It pays to know your rights in advance and make sure you have a clear written agreement in place with the trader, so you both know where you stand.”
Trading Standards reminds customers, “Don’t forget, for doorstep contracts worth over £42, traders are required to provide you with a written notice informing you that you have a 14 day cooling off period during which you can change your mind and cancel the contract. Failure to provide cancellation rights when required to do so is a crime. For more advice on cancellation rights contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”
Police Scotland would urge householders to be on their guard when visited at the door by cold callers. Remember “YOUR HOME, YOUR SAFETY”, it’s your home and it’s up to you who you speak to at your doorstep or choose to let in. There are many reasons why someone unknown to you may call at your door, some of them may be legitimate, but how do you stay as safe as possible? ……….LOCK, STOP, CHAIN & CHECK!
- If in doubt, keep them out! Don’t answer the door
- LOCK – Keep all entrances to the property locked
- STOP – Don’t open the door until you’ve looked through a viewer or window to see who’s there
- CHAIN – Use a door chain or bar
- CHECK – Only let callers in if they have an appointment and you have confirmed they are genuine. Always ask for ID. Call the published number from the internet or phone directory for their company or service to check if they are legitimate. Do not use a telephone number provided by the caller
- Never be afraid to say ‘No thank you’ and close the door
- Don’t take on face value that work is required on your property by a cold caller, no matter how convincing they are. If you feel there may be an issue, call a reputable company to check your property – you could ask your local trading standards department for advice on who to use.
- If you feel threatened by a caller, call 999 immediately
Doorstep crime is known to be under-reported, both in terms of attempts and crimes. Police Scotland need you to tell us if you have been victim of this type of crime or if someone has been to your door acting suspiciously – it could avoid it happening to someone else. Please call 101 to report any crime or suspicious behaviour. If the crime or threatening behaviour is ongoing at the time, dial 999.
Find out more about doorstep crime by downloading our Beat Doorstep Crime campaign material here.